Investing In Chat: What’s Your Standard?

With the plethora of tools and technology available to dealerships, it’s difficult to know what to use and how to do it. At Thoroughbred Ford, while we’re quick to integrate new technologies, we’re also mindful that all technologies do not necessarily improve the customer experience or allow us provide the exceptional level of service our dealership is known for. Because of that, any technology we employ must, as a prerequisite, convey our brand and provide the shopper with the same personalized experience as our showroom floor.

About three years ago, we added chat to our third-party listings, and quickly identified it as an effective means of communicating with more shoppers online, both in a personal way and timely way. The response from shoppers and the increase in sales conversions were so great that it made sense to add chat to our dealership website too. But we didn’t limit ourselves to just sales, because we knew that if online chat assisted with the customer experience during the buying process, it might also help us offer a consistently high level of service across our other departments. In fact, chat has been a boon to all departments.

After spending several months looking for the chat company that would work best with our dealership, we ended up expanding our relationship with Contact At Once! – the same service that we were already using with our third-party providers. We added an interactive toolbar to our website and offered the chat feature to customers for sales, service, and body shop inquiries. We also added chat to our sister store in Platte City. The added bonus of this type of integration is that while each department has their own chat, they also have the ability to hand off a chat from one department to the next—seamless communication with all departments during a transaction—just like the hand-off that takes place in our showroom.

Of course, there are times when we receive a lot of chats all at once. In this case, if sales is unable to respond, our BDC serves as back-up, and if our BDC is tied-up, the chat receptionist team at Contact At Once! handles the chat and forwards us the lead. While our goal is to try and respond to the chats directly, from time to time it helps to have a chat receptionist service there to cover the gaps.

Tools and technology aren’t just a part of the progress of a dealership; they’re a response to the modern demands of the customer and essential in our ability to continue to offer consistent, exceptional service. The trick to knowing which technologies are right for your dealership is to find tools that are consistent in nature with your showroom experience. Whether a customer is walking through your doors or requesting a conversation from your website, the interaction ought to be a personal one.

George O’Sullivan has been in the automotive business for 18 years. He has spent a large portion of that time building websites, designing e-commerce strategies and more recently pursuing social media avenues. He has been asked to participate in several national and regional forums on social media in the automotive business. He graduated from Notre Dame in 1989 with an MBA in international business and marketing, with undergraduate degrees from SLU in psychology and chemistry.

George OSullivan


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